The mantra of Congress should be, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." And just like the House before it, the Senate managed to take a step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act. After their failed attempt at passing the Better Care Reconciliation Act last week, the Senate passed a motion to proceed, which allows them to debate and amend the current bill and try to pass it that way, as protesters chanted "kill the bill, don't kill us," and "shame" from the visitors' gallery.
And yesterday evening, as the first part of the attempt to pass a repeal-and-replace bill, they voted again on a new version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, sweetened with an added $100 billion in Medicaid dollars—and this time, nine Republican senators voted against the bill.
Today, the Senate is expected to vote on just a simple repeal act—which is also expected not to pass, given many senators' opposition to removing the Affordable Care Act's protections without a new set of legislation in place. Another version expected to go to vote, a "skinny" repeal, will no longer require individuals to have health insurance or employers to provide coverage—and a won't take away a tax on medical device manufacturers. (Though detractors of the bill worry that without the individual mandate, health insurance costs will increase as only those with preexisting conditions will purchase insurance—and experts estimate that this "skinny" repeal will also result in nearly 15 million additional Americans losing healthcare coverage.)
Then they will begin a 20-hour period of debate and introduction of some amendments. Following that is "vote-a-rama," where senators from both parties can introduce amendments to be added to the bill in an attempt to create something that can pass the Senate. These amendments will be discussed and voted upon—those that pass the vote will end up as part of the final bill that the Senate will vote on. And then comes the vote on the entire bill.
If the bill passes, the House of Representatives will come back over the August recess to try to pass it through their chamber as well.
At this point, no one knows. With members of both parties potentially introducing new amendments, the bill could end up including protections of essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health care, and emergency services, protections for preexisting conditions, and help to make healthcare more affordable for low-income and middle-class famillies. It could keep the current Medicaid expansion in place. Or it could end up like the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which the Congressional Budget Office predicts will force nearly 26 million additional Americans to lose health coverage. Or they won't be able to reach any agreement on a bill—and the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land.
So if you have something to say about your family's healthcare, now is the time to contact your senators and representatives. Let them know what you want to see in the healthcare bill: Do you want preexisting conditions covered at the same cost as other health plans? Do you want to make sure that there are no lifetime caps on coverage? Do you want to ensure that you'll have maternity coverage? Do you not want to be required to have health insurance at all? You can call (202) 224-3121 to be connected to your senators and share your opinion with them.